Monthly Archives: April 2015

Musical Futures has officially left the building

On 1st April 2015 Musical Futures ceased to be a special initiative of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and it is with immense fondness that I reflect back on our involvement with them.

The idea of tackling the issue of poor engagement with music in school among young people was a passion of Paul Hamlyn himself, discussed at length with his great friend Claus Moser who, after Paul’s death in 2001, made tackling this a reality.


Paul Hamlyn

Under then Director Patricia Lankester, Arts Manager Jane Attenborough (who tragically died in the Asian tsunami in 2004, tribute here) and Claus Moser, David Price was appointed as project leader following an interview where famously everybody was asking everybody else what Musical Futures actually was, and nobody really knew. Robert Dufton took over as director in 2004, with Regis Cochefert and his arts team managing Musical Futures until 2008, where it was transferred to the education and learning team under the leadership of Denise Barrows.

The way that Musical Futures ethos, philosophy, principles, approaches and programmes evolved is well documented and is summarised in an article here.

What is less well known is the incredible spirit of innovation and openness Musical Futures has always been able to work in under the PHF. This has not been a relationship with strictly imposed outcomes, heavy reporting structures, high levels of financial accountability. Instead, there has always been an acknowledgment that those working on Musical Futures (project team, teachers, practitioners, partners) are the experts, and the best course of action is to let these be the people that drive and steer the initiative. As a result it has gone in directions that nobody could have envisioned.

We have made SO many mistakes. But we’ve been allowed to and we openly share these. We’ve euphorically celebrated the highs, and been in a safe space to discuss and evaluate the lows. And through this ideas, innovations, programmes, people have emerged that may otherwise have stayed under the radar.  

One of my favourite things about the PHF is that they really understand how to highlight and celebrate great people. In January 2007 on the eve of the Music Manifesto ‘State of Play’ conference, the PHF hosted a reception at their offices in St James’ Park. It was partly to celebrate the achievements of Musical Futures, and to launch the final pamphlet. But instead of being a reception purely for the great and good, PHF invited 50 classroom teachers and practitioners who had taken a leap of faith, and had become MF ‘early adopters’. The reception was beautiful, champagne was flowing, the food was exquisite, and music teachers were in the midst of it feeling like their work actually mattered. It was the beginnings of our community of practice forming – and of teachers feeling like Musical Futures belonged to them. The impact of this led to a much larger conference-style event ‘In Your Hands’ which took place at the South Bank in June 2008 for 350 delegates, with the focus being teachers delivering workshops for other teachers on MF practice. Once again, the people out there at the chalkface felt invested in, and inspired to continue.

The decision for Musical Futures to become independent was made in July 2014. While there was much scrutiny and challenge from trustees over this decision, ultimately it felt to all like this was the most appropriate course of action to enable Musical Futures to evolve and develop, and for PHF to focus on its own new strategy for arts education (launching Summer 2015).

I personally would like to thank Claus Moser, Estelle Morris, the PHF trustees, advisors and particularly the staff for their vision, commitment, challenge and support for not only Musical Futures but for myself and the team over the years.

With Head of Arts Regis Cochefert on our last day at PHF

With Head of Arts Regis Cochefert on our last day at PHF

For the last few years Musical Futures has somewhat affectionately been referred to as the teenager who won’t quite leave home. Now with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, we have strapped our rucksack on our back, been given a packed lunch and had a pat on the head from our parents, and stepped out into the world.

And as we venture out , I know that we’ll always be welcome to pop back for a cuppa, a chat, inevitable advice, and occasionally a hug. Thank you PHF.

Post updated 6th December 2016